Considering that this issue has a line of dialogue in it that sports the title of this entire series, I would have thought more time would have been devoted into making sure that this issue knocked your socks off. As it stands, it is merely acceptable.
The majority of this story is spent showing the Dark Knight Detective conquering trials in order to get an audience with The Demon’s Head, Ra’s Al Ghul. That sentence alone sounds far more epic than anything we actually get treated to in this book. After Batman spends a mere two page spread fighting a bunch of generic ninjas, he then has to best Dr. Darrk and Lord Death Man. Granted, these two characters do have ties to past Ra’s stories, but their inclusion here seemed completely random. Death Man merely attacks Batman, while Darrk attempts to slow down Batman by subjecting him to hallucinogens that make him envision moments from other Bat-Books. I have commented on this before, but Batman Eternal is very much a retelling/reliving of Batman’s greatest hits. This hallucination scene is at least a refreshing way to sneak other Bat relevant stories into Eternal.
Personally, I found the best element of this story to be the voice of Ra’s, hanging ghostly in the air over almost every scene. It added an overall ominous quality to the atmosphere that I really enjoyed. Although, it made me feel like all the action was superfluous to the dialogue and had me longing for the days when Batman and Ra’s would have these long chats over a game of chess or a lavishly spread banquet as opposed to the uncivilized beat downs we get here. I would have been happier if Batman had just been brought before Ra’s and they had just discussed the situation like the gentlemen that they are. I thought the moments they shared face to face were the best of the book. I wish it would have been longer than just the 2 pages we were given.
There were two concepts brought forth in the dialogue that I thought were really fascinating. Batman tries to get Dr. Darrk to tell him what Ra’s is up to. Darrk responds, “I don’t know. I do what he asks. He lets me live. Not entirely unlike his relationship with you, I suppose.” The idea that Ra’s allows Batman to continue his work because it suits his needs is a very interesting concept indeed. The other piece of dialogue comes from Ra’s himself. I’m paraphrasing here, “When I kill you, it will be at your peak, in your finest hour. Go. Discover your enemy. Defeat him. Save your city. Become better. And then wait for me…..” The “Party Planner’s” plans are so far beneath Ra’s that he completely dismissed them. There is no honor or victory in defeating a weak opponent, only a strong one.
Hush appears on a single page of this issue and taunts Julia. It was an interesting point in the story to remind us of his presence. Perhaps Hush still has something worthwhile to contribute to the overall story. It would be kind of cool if the cliffhanger to one of the upcoming issues was him tearing the bandages away from his face only to reveal the visage of Bruce Wayne.
There is a scene in which Julia is talking to an incapacitated Alfred. She basically recaps events that have been happening in the series. They say that people who are in a coma can usually hear you and that talking to them can help them recover. While it is sweet to see her devoting this time to Alfred and his recovery, there is a part of it that feels like nothing more than an expositional dump. It’s nice that it was given some sort of contextual usefulness, but at the same time, I realize it was just to remind the reader of everything that has previously happened.
This issues art is handled by Alessandro Vitti, Christian Duce, and Ronan Cliquet. Nope, that isn’t the penciler, inker, and colorist. All three of these guys contribute to the art, with another two assisting with colors. That’s 5 artist on this issue! I’m not sure if DC was using this issue as a testing board to see which artist people liked the most or if they were crunched for time and just needed everyone to fill in just to make sure this got done on time. In any case, it is slightly distracting. If they wanted to make the transitions smoother they could have had one artist handle all the hallucination scene and nothing else. At least then there would be an in world reason as to why things all of a sudden looked so different.
Personally, I enjoyed Christian Duce’s work the most. It had a smoother look to it that I found more pleasing to the eye. For Vitti, while the specific panel I choose for comparison is rather good, some of his other work in the issue was rather rough. Of the three, Cliquet is definitely the one lacking the most detail and polish. Being only assigned to 2 pages in the book, I’m guessing that editorial also realized he wasn’t the best of the bunch.
There was one moment in the story that took me by surprise and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Selina Kyle is walking by two guys mopping the floor and one of them tries to hit on her. The other is like, “Dude, what the hell are you doing?” It’s totally peripheral to the story, but I liked it enough that I wanted to at least mention it here.
- Back in the 70s, Dr. Ebeneezer Darrk was the Leader of the League of Assassins. He first appeared in Detective Comics #405 (1970) and was killed by Talia in Detective Comics #411 (1971) when she shot him and then he got ran over by a train!
- Lord Death Man actually had dual first appearances, both in 1966. One was presented in Batman #180 and the other in the first chapter of Batmanga.
- On the left we have a panel from The Killing Joke (1988) and on the right a panel from this issue of Batman Eternal. (It’s always nice to see homages, but the fact that it is JD makes it seem more like sacrilege.)
- In the scene in which Batman is hallucinating, we get to see several different versions of Batman. In order of appearance: Kingdom Come Batman, Grayson Batman, Terry McGinnis Batman, and Damian Batman.
- You love Ra’s Al Ghul!
- You like when a comic references tons of other characters and events.
The strongest element of this issue is the dialogue delivered by Ra’s Al Ghul. Being that as it may, the issue still ends up feeling like filler or a detour meant to prolong our wait till we get to see the finale! For whatever reason, DC has decided to arbitrarily force the number 52. If they didn’t have enough worthwhile content to present a strong story of this length, I would have preferred a shorter run of this title, trimmed of the fat. Instead of being relevant, it feels like another script was just thrown together in order to get us to the magic number.
SCORE: 6.5 / 10